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The Scholarly Spotlight: The University Of North Carolina Tarheels

The University Of North Carolina's basketball culture is one of the most prevalent in the sport's history. NBA legends Bob McAdoo, James Worthy, and Michael Jordan are alums of UNC. The Tarheels have six national championships and 21 Final Four appearances. They are at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference almost every year, and even though former Head Coach Roy Williams retired, they have not regressed in talent.

New head coach Hubert Davis played for the Tarheels from 1988 to 1992 and joined the coaching staff in 2012 after his NBA career ended. After being promoted to head coach in 2021, he has done an excellent job through three seasons with a 74-29 coaching record. This season, after his performance on the sideline, he won the 2024 ACC Coach Of The Year award. 

The Tarheels played at a high level all season and claimed the ACC regular-season championship. They were ranked 4th on ESPN’s Associated Press Top 25 school rankings. R.J. Davis led the team in scoring with 21.1 PPG while shooting 41.6% from beyond the arc. He is the best shooter on the team and makes excellent decisions on the floor. Davis is slightly undersized at 6’0 but uses his speed to create his shots. His game pairs well with combo guard Ryan Cormac.

Cormac transferred to UNC last summer from Notre Dame, and he fits right in with Coach Davis’s system. He constantly cuts off screens to create space, and he can post up undersized matchups with his size. Cormac is also good at using his 6’5 frame to grab rebounds, and he is also a good defender. His 6’9 wingspan allows him to apply good defensive pressure on the perimeter. 

Cormac scores in double figures almost every game. He is shooting 37% from three this season, one of the highest percentages in his collegiate career. If Davis and Cormac have inefficient shooting nights, 6'11 Center Armando Bacot is in the post to secure second-chance points and rebounds. 

Bacot is a fifth-year player who is averaging 13.1 PPG. He also leads the team in rebounding with 10.1 per game. Tarheel fans have enjoyed watching Bacot’s development throughout his five years, and he’s changed his style to compliment the team. After rarely shooting mid-range shots, he has added 3-point range to his game. He doesn’t shoot it every game, but he shot 40% from three on the season due to efficient shot selection. The option to spread the floor increased the cohesiveness of their lineup and added a plethora of plays they could run. 

The Tarheels are fortunate to have two great rebounders who can spread the floor by shooting 3-pointers. Junior Forward Harrison Ingram is a highly versatile scorer and a fantastic rebounder. Harrison’s vertical helps him grab rebounds rapidly, and his perimeter defense allows him to crash the glass after a successful stop on defense. He secured 17+ rebounds in multiple games throughout the season. He is averaging 12.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.5 STLS, and 2.2 APG going into the 2024 ACC Tournament

Coach Davis has orchestrated a terrific season going into the tournament, and the Tarheels have shown no signs of slowing down. They are the betting favorites to win the conference title and have beaten historic rival Duke University twice during the regular season. March 12th through March 16th will be a test of wills for first-year students like Zayden High and Elliot Cadeau. The ACC gauntlet will provide elite competition until the end of the tournament.

The fans will give them their first taste of a playoff-like atmosphere, and the stars will have to raise their game in the big moments to secure the victories. NBA scouts will watch them to see how their games translate to high-pressure situations. It is the best chance to raise their draft stocks, and given their previous performances, they should deliver unless the pressure is too much. 

The last time UNC won the NCAA championship was in 2017. They made the Final Four in 2022 but lost in the National Championship to the Kansas Jayhawks 72-69. After an underwhelming season, they did not make the tournament in 2022-2023, finishing with a 20-13 record.

 This season, they have looked outstanding all year, and they’re one of the favorites to compete for the championship in April. According to the betting odds, the UConn Huskies have the best chances of winning the title, but upsets have occurred. It will be interesting to see how the Tarheels fare against the competition, but only time will tell.

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